Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
Makeup and depression. They don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, do they?
One implies glamour, beauty, and being “put together,” whereas the other implies sadness, loneliness, self-loathing, and lack of care.
I’ve worn makeup for years now, and I’ve also been depressed for years — little did I know how one would actually impact the other.
I first developed depressive tendencies when I was 14 years old. I was completely unaware of what was happening to me, and unsure of how I was going to get through it. But I did. Years passed and I was finally diagnosed at 18 with bipolar disorder, which is characterized by severe low moods and manic highs. Throughout my schooling years, I fluctuated between severe depression and hypomania, using dangerous methods to help cope with my illness.
It wasn’t till my early 20s that I discovered self-care. The idea baffled me. I had spent years of my life battling this illness, using alcohol, self-harm, and other awful methods to help deal with it. I never thought self-care could help.
Self-care simply implies a way of helping yourself through a difficult time, and looking after yourself, be it a bath bomb, a walk, a conversation with an old friend — or in my case, makeup.
I’d worn makeup since I was young, and as I grew older, it became more of a helper… and after that, a mask. But then I discovered something within the lashes, the eyeshadows, the lipsticks. I realized it was so much more than what it seemed on the surface. And it became a huge step in my recovery.
I remember the first time that makeup helped my depression
I sat at my desk and spent a whole hour on my face. I contoured, I baked, I tweezed, I shaded, I pouted. A whole hour had gone by, and suddenly I realized that I had managed to not feel sad. I had managed to last an hour, and didn’t feel anything other than concentration. My face felt heavy and my eyes felt itchy, but I felt something other than that horrific mind-crushing sadness.
Suddenly, I wasn’t putting on a mask to the world. I was still able to express my feelings, but I felt that a small part of me had it “in control” with every sweep of my eyeshadow brush.
Depression had stripped me of every passion and interest I’d ever had, and I was not going to let it get this one, too. Every time the voice in my head told me I wasn’t good enough, or I was a failure, or that there was nothing I was good at, I felt a need to get back some control. So sitting at my desk and ignoring the voices, ignoring the negativity in my head, and just simply putting on makeup, was a huge moment for me.
Sure, there were still days when getting out of bed was impossible, and as I stared at my makeup bag I would roll over and vow to try again tomorrow. But as tomorrow rose, I would test myself to see how far I could go — to get that control back. Some days would be a simple eye look and a bare lip. Other days, I’d come out looking like a fabulous, glamorous drag queen. There was no in-between. It was all or nothing.
Sitting at my desk and painting my face with art felt so therapeutic, I’d often forget how ill I was. Makeup is a huge passion of mine, and the fact that I was still — even during my lowest moments — able to sit there and do up my face felt so good. I felt on top of the world.
It was a hobby, it was a passion, it was an interest depression hadn’t robbed me of. And I was so lucky to have that goal to start my day.
If you have a passion, an interest, or a hobby that helps you deal with your depression, hold onto it. Don’t let the black dog take it from you. Don’t let it rob you from your self-care activity.
Makeup won’t cure my depression. It won’t turn my mood around. But it helps. In a small way, it helps.
Now, where’s my mascara?
Olivia — or Liv for short — is 24, from the United Kingdom, and a mental health blogger. She loves all things gothic, especially Halloween. She’s also a massive tattoo enthusiast, with over 40 so far. Her Instagram account, which may disappear from time to time, can be found here.